Perspective: The Value Of Project Management Skills

New NC4 travel programs director Craig Banikowski recently explained how he identified the need for formal project management training and why he believes more travel managers should consider project management certification as part of their skill sets. The former travel manager for Hilton Worldwide and other companies, who began his career at TWA nearly 30 years ago, shared the insight at an Egencia forum in Chicago in May. An edited excerpt of his presentation follows.

Deploying integrated technology solutions as well as policy, procurement and more for your travel program could be daunting, difficult or even unsuccessful if you don’t have the structure of project management behind you.

Working on the deployment of automated expense reporting for a Fortune 250 company earlier in my career, I found that I was tasked with so many project-related aspects that I sought a better way to manage it all. I started work on Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute. That knowledge was critical as I worked on globalization and risk management projects.

What is project management? The application of knowledge, skills and tools to meet the project requirements. It sounds very straightforward as you start a project. You say, “Oh, I can do that. I can deploy automated expense reporting for a decentralized company. I can follow standard steps.”

Yet in today’s marketplace, companies want more than that. Management is increasingly looking for standard metrics. They want touchpoints. They want to know what percentage you’ve completed, where you are in the project lifecycle. It’s no longer enough to say, “We’re doing well, we have a rollout date.” When you’ve got so much invested in technology,
headcount, resources and deployment, you’ve got to speak the speak that your leadership wants. That’s why project management certification exists and why I’m such a strong proponent of it.

Every project involves five process steps: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. That last step, closing, is what I found very challenging—saying there is an end date to this project when you migrate over to sustained operations. Cutting it off is very important. You’ve got to have a definitive close date.

Some companies have PMO organizations. When I was with Janus Capital Management in Denver, project management professionals would sit in on your projects to provide expertise, similar to how procurement has worked with travel. But often smaller, midsize companies don’t have certified project management staffs, so you’re on your own.

The steps and more are outlined in “A Guide To The Project Management Body Of Knowledge,” a hefty book published by the Project Management Institute. PMI also offers various levels of certification and other resources.

While associated with technology implementations, project management skills can be applied to many aspects of travel management, such as implementing safety and security, risk management and procurement initiatives. Especially with multiyear projects, a rigorous project management plan can assist with budget changes, identify incongruous budgets and assist with scope creep, cultural or infrastructure changes within a company or altered priorities that could impact delivery and therefore project success.

Scope creep is one of the most common threats to project success. Months into a project, constituents might suggest inclusion of certain aspects—perhaps as a result of emerging events. All of a sudden, the scope has creeped. That creep could require additional resources and budgets, or threaten the success of your project if not properly managed. You have to say that would be a new project or an add-on to be completed later, not something that should be considered a deliverable into the existing project.

At the start of every project, you also should define what will mark the project close—the day we turn a system on, two months after integration, etc. Closing a project should entail capture of quality measurement of your audience and the project. Are people using it? What worked? What didn’t? Was the project completed on time and on budget?

You can never have enough acronyms in this industry to say, “I’m a professional, keep me employed.”

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